Olin Cup finalists offer quality, diverse ideas

A mobile solution to the severity of epileptic seizures. Helmets designed to reduce concussions in high-impact sports. A locally sourced grain-to-glass spirits distillery.

These are just a few of the ideas of the seven final teams, announced Nov. 7, vying this year for $70,000 in seed money to start a new company. The Olin Cup is sponsored by the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.

Five of the seven final teams are student-owned or supported ventures and in the running for an additional $5,000 prize given to the best business proposal submitted by a Washington University in St. Louis student team.

“The quality and diversity of the ideas was exceptional this year, and once again our judges asked, ‘How is it that the entrepreneurs and ventures keep improving every year?’ We think that the answer is that the culture of entrepreneurship continues to expand and improve,” said Ken Harrington, managing director of the Skandalaris Center.

Audience members were invited to rank each of the presentations. The person who came closest to the judges’ rankings will receive $250.

Contestants submitted an executive summary of their proposed business to enter the competition. From that initial field of 40 entrants, 17 semifinalists were chosen to compete in the “elevator pitch” challenge that required a two-minute presentation of the business idea to a diverse team of judges representing several regional alumni, service providers and other members of the support community for entrepreneurs.

This year’s finalists are (* indicates student-owned or student-supported venture):

  • Epi Squared*, developing an implantable mobile solution to reduce severity of epileptic seizures;
  • Farmplicity*, an online marketplace making it easy for chefs to acquire local food;
  • Genetix Fusion*, developing the next generation of transfection kits for biomedical researchers;
  • Nanopore Diagnostics*, developing products that provide immediate molecular diagnostic testing;
  • Stumpy’s Spirits*, locally sourced grain-to-glass premium spirits distiller;
  • SynerZ Medical, developing an outpatient device for treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes; and
  • Zymplr, developing a helmet designed to reduce concussions in high-impact sports.

The final hurdle for the entrepreneurs will be writing and presenting a full business plan in January. The finalists each will submit a business plan and give a 25-minute oral presentation to the judges, with a question-and-answer period as the final phase of the competition.

The Olin Cup winners will be announced Jan. 30 at an awards ceremony. The Olin Cup was created as a cross-campus activity in 1988 by Olin Business School and has awarded funding to winning commercial ventures since 2003. The competition is sponsored by Olin Business School and the Skandalaris Center; accounting firm RubinBrown; law firm Polsinelli; and the St. Louis Regional Chamber.